Tripods are near essential for shots in the dark — but of course, in the dark, you can’t actually see your tripod. That’s why Platypod built a screen and an electronic level into the Platyball Elite, a tripod head that looks as if it arrived via time machine from the future. But beside the level that you can actually see in the dark, the Platyball re-imagines the traditional tripod head in more ways than one.
Rather than using a small leveling bubble, the Platyball Elite uses an electronic leveling system — similar to the system inside some digital cameras that tells you when the horizon is crooked. That electronic design allows the leveling system to be accessed via backlit screen. That screen is visible at night, along with the option to position the camera so that the screen is visible from the front of the camera.
The electronic level isn’t the only odd feature on the tripod head. Platypod says the design of the head is flipped upside-down, with the panning turntable at the top instead of the bottom. That switch allows photographers and videographers to pan the camera in a straight line even when the tripod legs itself aren’t perfectly level.
The Platyball gets its name from the fact that it looks like a ball of futuristic metal — lacking the usual knobs and dials of a traditional tripod head. The tripod head uses a slim panning lock and two buttons to lock or unlock the ball head itself. The top uses an Arca quick release and a locking collar. According to the company, that control scheme allows the tripod head to be adjusted with one hand and while wearing gloves for cold weather shoots.
The Platyball Elite is launching with the Platyball Ergo, which lacks the electronic level and screen for a slimmer design, but otherwise offers the same list of specifications. Both tripod heads can handle up to 22 pounds of gear.
The Platyball comes from the makers of the Platpod and Platypod Pro Max, a flat tripod that can handle 300 pounds. The company launched after its founder, a New Jersey area photographer, couldn’t find a tabletop tripod strong enough to handle pro-level gear.
Like the company’s earlier projects, the Platyball Elite and Ergo are launching on Kickstarter. A few hours after the campaign went live on January 16, the Platyball had already garnered over $125,000 in funding, well beyond the original $18,000 goal. If production is successful, early backers could pick up an Ergo for $199 or an Elite for $250. Estimated retail prices, once widely available, are $250 and $325. The campaign continues through March 15.
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